Payday loans or credit card cash advance?

Q: I need a few hundred pounds. Should I get a payday loan or take out a cash advance with my credit card?

Answer: There’s nothing worse then coming to the end of your bank balance just a few days before payday.

Knowing that the answer to your problems lies just around the corner can make many of us impulsive and borrow expensively by withdrawing on a credit card or exceeding our overdraft limit for example, but what is the best option?

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Payday loans

Although designed specifically for this purpose, payday loans companies have a poor reputation and rightly so. Although offering a very quick and easy solution to your borrowing needs – you can get your hands on the money in hours, but at a cost.

Payday loans companies make their money by charging interest rates of an estimated 1,750% on average, meaning the costs of missing a payment are huge.

Credit cards

Withdrawing money on a credit card is unlikely to be much better with 2-3% fees for withdrawals, although as a last resort they are still a better option. You will be charged interest from the moment you withdraw the money, but with credit card APR rarely going above 30%, it’s likely to be cheaper than a payday loan.

For any other non-cash spending like food and household essentials however a credit card is probably your best bet, as long as you pay off the balance in full within the interest free period.

Credit unions and authorised overdrafts

Authorised overdrafts are probably the cheapest way to ensure you have access to an emergency fund and are easy to set up.

You should approach your main bank provider to whom your salary is paid and request an overdraft facility. They will run a credit check to authorise this.

Credit unions are another good alternative. These financial co-operatives are member-run and offer better rates for small loans under £4,000 than Payday loan providers. For more on credit unions see our dedicated guide.

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